Genesis 12 describes God’s call to Abram to leave his home and family in the land of Chaldea and travel forth to the land which God appoints for him. God promises “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse,” (Genesis 12:2-3 ESV). So Abram, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot all traveled forth to the land of Canan, where they settled.
But a famine drove them to Egypt. There, Abram was afraid that he’d be murdered because his wife Sarai was so beautiful, so he told her to call him her brother. Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, and Abram became rich because of his “sister.” But soon, a curse fell upon Pharaoh, who discovered that Sarai was Abram’s wife not his sister. He was angry at the deception, but sent Abram and Sarai safely on their way. Presumably for fear of Abram’s god. This lie is how Abram made his fortune.
Later, Abram and Lot separate, both to build their families in peace. Lot went to live in Sodom. But there was war going on between rivaling cities, and Lot was taken prisoner by Sodom’s enemy. Abram built and army and saved his nephew. The king of Sodom then praised Abram and told Abram to take the goods that he had rescued, but Abram refused, saying he didn’t want people to say that he had become rich because of the king of Sodom.
These chapters (Genesis 12 – 14) introduce a hero, Abram, who becomes a lasting part of the biblical narrative henceforth. Abram is considered righteous – why else would God have chosen him – but he also has his flaws. Instead of telling the truth and hoping for the best, Abram lies about Sarai in Egypt. Despite Sarai’s probable mortification of being part of Pharaoh’s harem (did she deserve this fate?), Abram profited greatly off the situation, and then happily left with his wife and his fortune when he was found out. He could be said to have been made rich by Pharoah, but then later he refuses to be made rich by the king of Sodom. Why is this? Does he have more respect for the king of Sodom (a city later destroyed by God because of its wickedness?) than he did for Pharaoh? Or did he simply want to be more careful when he was so close to home?
I also wonder about Abram’s lack of faith in God during his time in Egypt. Why didn’t he trust that God would keep him and Sarai safe? Why, instead, did he put Sarai in harm’s way? And why did God save Abram despite his lack of faith? What had Abram done that was so respectable in God’s eyes?